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Push on Beacon Hill for 100% renewable energy by 2045

Telegram & Gazette, Worcester, Mass. logo Telegram & Gazette, Worcester, Mass. 7/24/2019 By Chris Van Buskirk Special to the Telegram & Gazette, Telegram & Gazette, Worcester, Mass.
a group of people sitting on a bench reading a book: BOSTON - An unidentified woman holds a sign advocating for legislation Tuesday, July 23, 2019, to make Massachusetts use of electricity 100 percent renewable energy by 2045. [PHOTO/CHRIS VAN BUSKIRK] © PHOTO/CHRIS VAN BUSKIRK/Telegram & Gazette, Worcester, Mass./TNS BOSTON - An unidentified woman holds a sign advocating for legislation Tuesday, July 23, 2019, to make Massachusetts use of electricity 100 percent renewable energy by 2045. [PHOTO/CHRIS VAN BUSKIRK]

BOSTON - Rep. Sean Garballey, D-Arlington, believes President Donald Trump has done everything in his power to reverse years of collaboration between states and the federal government on addressing climate change

The passage of the Global Warming Solutions Act in 2008, Mr. Garballey said, was a tremendous step at the time for setting clear goals on renewable energy in Massachusetts. However, the representative said the current administration has made it difficult to address the issue.

"What has happened is we have states that now must lead on this issue because the federal government is not only doing nothing about it, they're actually doing everything they can to deny science, to call it a myth," he said at a Tuesday hearing on Beacon Hill. "[Mr. Trump has] done everything contrary to collaborating with states and moving this issue as a moral imperative to address it."

a group of people standing next to a person in a suit and tie: BOSTON - State Rep. Marjorie Decker, D-Cambridge, (seated at left) and State Rep. Sean Garballey, D-Arlington, (seated at right) testified Tuesday, July 23, 2019, about a bill they introduced to make Massachusetts use of electricity 100 percent renewable energy by 2045. [PHOTO/CHRIS VAN BUSKIRK] © seated at right testified Tuesday, July 23, 2019, about a bill they introduced to make Massachusetts... BOSTON - State Rep. Marjorie Decker, D-Cambridge, (seated at left) and State Rep. Sean Garballey, D-Arlington, (seated at right) testified Tuesday, July 23, 2019, about a bill they introduced to make Massachusetts use of electricity 100 percent renewable energy by 2045. [PHOTO/CHRIS VAN BUSKIRK]

Rep. Marjorie Decker, D-Cambridge, Sen. James Eldridge, D-Acton, and Mr. Garballey introduced bi-partisan legislation into the Senate and House to move Massachusetts towards 100 percent renewable energy by 2045. This includes the power used for electricity, heating and cooling, transportation and agricultural, among other things.

Mr. Eldridge, the lead sponsor of the Senate bill, said if the state wants to combat climate change then there needs to be a bold vision like the 2008 legislation which requires all sectors to be at 20 percent below 1990 emissions levels by 2020 and 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

While the senator did not have exact figures regarding the cost of converting the state to 100 percent renewable energy, he stressed the rate at which renewable technologies are evolving. Mr. Eldredge argued that the increase in solar power and the price of solar power dropping would make the shift away from fossil fuels cost-effective.

"In some cases, solar power now is cheaper than fossil fuel power, battery storage has really advanced significantly and so you can harness the power of the sun or the wind," he said in an interview. "The technology that we have today will be very different from even five years away and that's how 100 percent renewable energy can be made possible.

The legislation would require the Commonwealth to meet 100 percent of Massachusetts' energy needs with renewable energy by 2045. In addition, the state must obtain 100 percent of the electricity consumed by residents, institutions, businesses, state and municipal agencies from renewable energy sources by 2035.

To accomplish such a task Mr. Eldridge, Mr. Garballey, and Ms. Decker propose creating an administrative council for clean energy transition to evaluate laws, regulations, and programs impacting energy production and consumption. The council would meet publically at least once per quarter.

The bill also calls for a clean energy center of excellence at a public institution of higher education to conduct and sponsor research on renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies.

"[It] will also conduct academic research on renewable technology, best practices, and barriers to access to renewable energy for low-income communities," Ms. Decker said at the hearing.

Additionally, the bill creates a council for clean energy workforce development to help those who are displaced by the shift towards renewable identify new skills and job training opportunities.

While the number of residents who work in the fossil fuel industry is modest, Mr. Eldridge said it is important to help train and transition people for the renewable energy industry.

"I've certainly seen very successful programs to train people to install solar panels on roofs, to go into the construction of wind turbines, [and] to make homes more energy-efficient," he said.

While Ms. Decker and Mr. Garballey testified in front of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy, Rep. David LeBoeuf D-Leicester, stood behind them in a show of support for the legislation.

Mr. LeBoeuf, a co-sponsor of both the House and Senate legislation, believes the urgency surrounding the legislation is 20 years too late.

"We should've been looking at this years ago," he said in an interview prior to the hearing. "We've seen the science that climate change is happening and we need to take proactive steps to make sure that we can remediate against that."

Sen. Michael Moore, D-Millbury, who signed onto the Senate version of the bill, said renewable energy can reduce carbon dioxide emissions and provide economic growth for workers. Mr. Moore said if the act is signed into law he hopes Massachusetts can meet the 2045 goal.

If the target is missed, he said, legislators have the option to go back and update the law to try and determine what went wrong

"If you don't have a longterm strategy on ... what you're trying to reach how are you ever really going to get there," he said in an interview. "At least this provides a structure, a format, a goal for us to try and attain."

At the hearing, Mr. Garballey expressed regret that Massachusetts lags behind states such as California, New York, and Hawaii in committing to 100 percent renewable energy.

"This session we're looking forward to working with you and the members of this distinguished committee to get this legislation passed and send a message to President Trump and to the rest of the country that we in Massachusetts believe climate change is real and this is a bill that will address it," he said.

Material from the State House News Service was used in this report.

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